The studio’s second podcast: interview with Archie Lee Coates IV, co-founder of PLAYLAB

The studio’s second podcast: interview with Archie Lee Coates IV, co-founder of PLAYLAB

The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast on design, architecture and everyday life. Hosted by architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it presents different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful shots and personal discussions.

A variety of topics are treated with honesty and humor: some episodes are interviews, while others are advice for other designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or informal explorations of everyday life and of design. The second workshop is also available on itunes, Spotify, and Youtube.

This week David and Marina are joined by Archie Lee Coates IV, co-founder of the extremely multidisciplinary design studio PLAYLAB. Archie discusses the evolution and future of PLAYLAB, naivety in design and art, social equity in design practices and design, belief in humanity, the design office like a permeable amoeba, the collaboration with Virgil Abloh for the Louis Vuitton Show, and more.


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Courtesy of PLAYLABCourtesy of PLAYLABCourtesy of PLAYLABCourtesy of PLAYLAB+ 19

Highlights and timestamps


Archie discusses his college education, why he chose to switch from architecture to graphic design at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and the beginnings of PLAYLAB with his business partner Jeff Franklin. (00:00)

Archie talks about the evolution of PLAYLAB and the importance of social equity in design and design offices. (03:20)

The world has always been screwed up and it’s just that we become enlightened year after year of the realities of the world, especially in 2020. So as extremely white co-founders of this studio, we now know that we have an extreme privilege of which we. we need. to review every day, every week, every month, every year for the rest of our lives as long as the studio exists. So now the hard work begins, which is how this place, the studio, becomes a place of access and opportunity for all who are unlike us. And that is hard work. (04:55)

Courtesy of PLAYLAB
Courtesy of PLAYLAB

Archie discusses + POOL (the world’s first water filtration floating swimming pool), the variety of work that PLAYLAB does, and why every project is equally important. (07:50)

Archie talks about the things that inspire him, issues of diversity and equality, the school of architecture and how it all shapes the office and its daily life. (24:02)

Every day there are ten things in the world that break your heart and it’s a constant battle to figure out where you stand to do something. And it’s also a constant battle to figure out who you are as an individual and what you want to do with your time and where those two things meet or where you need to go out and change yourself and your goals as a nobody. This is the growth of the studio. How do we do that? It’s a huge question, it’s everyday and it’s an ongoing conversation at home. […] I have a four and a half year old son and we talk about these things every day… about how to be better human beings. And I think along with art, it’s important. (27:19)

Courtesy of PLAYLAB
Courtesy of PLAYLAB

Archie explains how the office is structured and why they intentionally limit the dissemination of information about how it works. (41:14)

We know we’re not perfect, so we don’t need to have a conversation with other people to find out why we’re not perfect or why our square peg doesn’t fit in your round hole. I don’t care, but I don’t care. If I care, then we open it up to too much, too much. I have enough to manage, to solve this studio for the next 50 years. I have work to do for me […] so we have to keep it tight. […] As much as I say this thing [the office] is sacred. The walls are permeable. The thing itself is an amoeba – it is constantly changing – and the walls are permeable. So we like adjacencies which are weird, for lack of a better word. Things that don’t necessarily seem to belong together. (49:10)

Courtesy of PLAYLAB
Courtesy of PLAYLAB

Archie discusses their work and their design process. (55:30)

Archie talks about the history, growth, and end goals of the office. (01:08:10)

I can also see that no one is here, we don’t have a studio, and it’s Jeff and I in a desert in a one-room apartment doing the same thing. And I think that’s the difference… it’s that it doesn’t matter. It’s important because I really want to be around people and I think it’s success, but if it boiled down to Jeff and I… that would be great too. Because this is our trip and I’m good with it. If I was going around this whole world with all the crazy people in it – the bad guys, the bad guys, the good guys, the middle men – and I dated someone I trusted, I would hit this jackpot. So once you have that, why would you want anything else? (01:21:51)

Courtesy of PLAYLAB
Courtesy of PLAYLAB

Archie talks about their move from New York to Los Angeles. (01:30:15).

Archie talks about getting to work with clients like Drake (01:38:20) and shares the emotional experience of working with Virgil Abloh on the Louis Vuitton Show 2020. (01:44:17)

It is magic. This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life and maybe I never will. When you watch these shows, when you watch what he do [Virgil Abloh] built and how he did it and how he involved the people and the messages they are dripping into […] It is the best form of art I have ever seen. Really. (01:50:27)

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